Yvonne also took leave for the day to provide another helping hand. I involved her for two main reasons. I wanted Huiyi to share this precious moment with her best friend, and I needed someone to safeguard the equipment at the pier while Gideon and Caleb waited for me to arrive. They were camping in the gents where I was going to change into my evening attire.
By the time I hopped into the Subaru, the crew reported their 100% readiness for Project Will-You-Marry-Me. The placards were pasted onto the railings, the guitar was in place, and the camera crew was in position. This was it – now we were only waiting for the stars of the show to arrive!
I drove into the clubhouse car park and parked at the first available car park lot I found because I was afraid that Huiyi may recognise Gideon’s car. Thank God he’s a smart boy – he parked in an obscure lot. We gathered our barang-barang, and I took my time with this because it was crucial that I didn’t miss out on any item, and exited the car for the lift lobby.
We had to change into our evening attire as we were in still in our sweaty and smelly USS tee-shirt and shorts. I managed to persuade her into wearing that Zara blouse; a week ago, I asked her why I haven’t seen her in that blouse for such a long time. I even pretended to lament, “Such a nice and expensive top, but yet you don’t wear it often enough…” She said she had already put it aside for Perth. Yes, she had also intended to wear that blouse for the proposal that she thought I was going to execute in Perth.
I frowned and told her that she has more than enough time to get it washed and packed for Perth. I persuaded her to wear something nice at Privé since it was a high-end restaurant. Again, she obediently complied with little resistance. I think it’s because every girl would want to look good on her birthday. Dining at a posh restaurant was my excuse to change into something pretty.
Next chapter: the change parade and the final countdown.
See the rest of the photo album here.
I was as cool as a cucumber the entire day. I was so composed that I impressed myself because not once did I give it away by verbal or nonverbal cues. And I exploited Huiyi’s frequent toilet visits to update and keep myself updated with Gideon and Caleb. There was no way she could tell what my evening plans were.
It was bright and sunny the entire day, and it looked really promising that we would be treated to a beautiful sunset later. The only time I started to panic (on the inside) was when we couldn’t complete the last attraction.
The Waterworld show actually stopped halfway due to the inclement weather. Lightning struck and it began to drizzle. I received an SMS from the crew already at KBM and they did not bring positive news too. I had to pull myself together and trust that the Lord would clear the skies for me.
But He didn’t.
The one thing I persistently petitioned God for the entire week was for a nice sunset, for it was the only element out of my control; I had indented sunset, but God indented a thunderstorm. And I understood the idioms “Rain on my parade” and “When it rains, it pours” at a whole new level. There was nothing I could do except to remain positive.
We left USS to return to the car with dark and heavy clouds hanging over us. As soon as we exited the car park, before we hit the U-turn at Sentosa Gateway, a deluge of precipitation suddenly hit us.
“Woah, heng we got into the car in time man! Otherwise we would have gotten drenched!”
This actually translated as, “Sian sian sian sian sian sian sian sian sian sian!!!”
Nonetheless, I texted the crew at KBM with bravado, “Rain or shine, we will proceed! Nothing will stop me from getting engaged today!”
Next chapter: the lead-up to the proposal.
Preparing for this elaborate proposal required a number of props, and since it was my proposal, I wanted to accomplish most of it by myself as much as possible. I sought help of course, on matters that I didn’t consider myself familiar with.
I approached Hilary to ask him to recommend a professional printer. I liaised with a printing company and paid for five A2 and three A3 full colour prints on PP sticker with a five millimetre kappaline mounting. And I made my way to the obscure Kallang Bahru on Wednesday to pick up the prints, since delivery wasn’t worth it for such a small quantity. I took leave on Thursday to complete the remaining errands. I had no idea printing these things were so costly…
I started my day at IMM where I spent an unimaginably long time in Daiso and Giant, picking out tiny plastic bags for goodie bags (so that everyone who turned up at the party took home something), a magic chalkboard as a prop for photo-taking, seven glass cookie jars to store sweets, five luminous paint markers, and a whole stack of tidbits.
It was there and then that I discovered that I have decidophobia (no kidding!). I became unexpectedly stressed at having to choose from the huge variety that was available to me. I even made distress calls to Cheryl, Melody, Yixian and Keith because I started to panic so much. Cheryl and Keith were amused by it but realised shortly that I was seriously distressed, so they patiently walked me through every decision that I had to make at those supermarkets. It was the most stressful errand, ever!
Besides helping me to record the song, Johann was also generous enough to restore my guitar to showroom condition, including drying, cleaning and dressing it with a new set of strings. Having my guitar restored was also helpful for my worship set at J333 (the Wednesday prayer meeting) anyway.
But as you would know by now, it seems like I never get to do things the easy way… The E-string snapped during soundcheck and I was frustrated, not because I had to use an inferior guitar, but because I had to buy a new string! So I swung by the Clementi Yamaha and to my horror they ran out of E-strings. But fret not (no pun intended!) for I simply purchased a new set of strings.
After Clementi, I made my way to Holland Village to make orders and pay for eight tubs of ice-cream at The Daily Scoop and arranged with Wei Kurk to help me pick it up on Friday, before the engagement party. I also swung by Party City to order enough helium-filled balloons to fill the function room. It was my first time ordering balloons and I got shocked at how expensive these items were considering they only had an eight-hour lifespan! I paid for it nonetheless and arranged with Xianyi to receive the balloons at the function room on Friday evening.
My last stop was back to the office at Tanglin Road, where I dumped the loot and packed them into plastic bags, with labels on each of them for my crew to pick up; Gideon picked up the guitar, guitar stand, projector and placards, while Keith picked up the logistics needed for the engagement party.
Oh, did I mention that it was pouring this entire time and that I didn’t have an umbrella? Okay, I just did. And I accomplished all these errands without a car. Yes, I had to make do with public transport the entire time, carrying with me big and small, heavy and bulky plastic bags. And I completed all these errands just in time to meet Huiyi at her office to head for her birthday dinner together with her family. Perhaps this justifies why I forgot to buy her birthday cake that day.
Next chapter: the one regrettable conflict.
Since it was pouring, the only thing I could capture on my iPhone 4 was the environment. Again, just like at USS, I took a surfeit of photos and videos to send to Gideon and Caleb.
10 minutes later, after I walked around to take as many photos of the surroundings as I could, I was mildly discouraged by the time I walked back to the hut. Seeing my semi-forlorn face, this man asked me what I was doing here. I explained briefly. I also told him that I had hoped to see the sunset. His response stunned me.
“Don’t worry, young man. This place has a beautiful sunset every evening. You can’t see it fully today because of the rain.” He assured me and brought out his handphone to show me his wallpaper as if to prove his statement to me. Of all images, it was a picture he snapped of the sunset at KBM. I smiled, thanked the Lord in my heart for this special arrangement, and easily mustered a whole-hearted “Thank you!” to this stranger. I took my final shots of the place and made my way out.
Yes, I had to endure the walk of shame all over again. I tried to wait for a taxi at the clubhouse, but there was none in sight after waiting for 15 minutes and I wasn’t successful in calling for a taxi. So I was left with no choice but to brave the rain and the 1.8 km again. I was determined to honour my word to the supervisor at the guardhouse, despite how uncharitable he was towards me.
And so, I fulfilled my part of the agreement, hopped onto a cab that exited the condominium, and made my way to my church in Bukit Gombak, where my cell group session was already underway. I found a modicum of comfort when my cell mates consoled me of the evening’s tragedy and applauded me of my enormous effort for the proposal.
Strangely enough, Huiyi couldn’t make it for cell that evening because she had a business function (an annual dinner and dance) to attend to. I guess it all worked out well after all.
Next chapter: the birthday that nearly ruined the proposal.
My first knee-jerk reaction was to return to the Southern-most Point of Sentosa. It was a significant location for Huiyi and I as we shared some wonderful memories there during the time that I courted her (before she agreed to be my girlfriend). I also considered returning to MBC or to the nearby Labrador Park…
But it was already Monday evening when I canned the USS idea and I only had one Tuesday evening left (before cell group at 8:30pm) to recce one last location. Wednesday and Thursday evenings were no-go and Friday was it! I pressed the panic button a million times but honestly, I really thrived on the adrenaline. I am certain I perform better under stress.
And since I was no longer going to propose in USS, I had to find a way to sell the two tickets I bought for Gideon and Caleb to recoup losses. I texted a number of my friends to ask if they were interested but it was too last-minute for anyone to make it. Thank God Lionel came to the rescue and kindly agreed to sacrifice his Friday lunch break to head into USS to help tout my pair of tickets away with minimal loss. He didn’t disappoint and even made a small profit because he managed to sell it at a higher price to tourists who couldn’t enjoy the DBS discount. And to top it off, he even drove to Peony Jade on Thursday evening to collect the tickets from me. I just had to ensure that we did not see him when we were there.
There were other literally sky-high ideas I had considered – to propose on top of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) or The Pinnacles @ Duxton. It was way too costly to do it at the Sky Park of MBS and to request for logistical permission and access would be a nightmare so I took that idea out. When Huiyi and I were at The Pinnacles earlier this year, I also assessed the place and deemed it unsuitable for my proposal because I couldn’t find a single power point in the entire Sky Garden on the 50th floor.
Next chapter: the final excursion that decided my destiny.
On my first recce trip to USS, I met Rudith there during our lunch breaks. She orientated me to all the locations and explained what I could and could not do The main purpose of this trip was to confirm the proposal hot spots as well as to find places for Gideon and Caleb to camp at while they were capturing the moment. I took lots of photos and videos and sent it to the both of them via WhatsApp so that they could get a visual idea of where they could plant themselves without being spotted by Huiyi.
The plan looked really promising as the Pavilion had Far Far Away in the background and I could imagine that with a sunset added, it would make a spectacular backdrop for an equally spectacular proposal. In my mind’s eye, I got excited thinking about how stunning the photos would eventually turn out.
I tried asking for special passes for their entry since they weren’t going in to enjoy the rides but to just snap photos. USS declined my request, which I could understand. So on my way out, I purchased two tickets for the two of them. I didn’t have a choice, really. So I was grateful that DBS was running a promotion with USS and tickets were sold at a small discount.
But I realised the first problem. Unless Gideon and Caleb had excessively expensive camera lenses, there was no way they would be able to capture close-up shots. The entire proposal would also be seen from only two boring perspectives and none of our facial expressions would be captured.
On my second visit to USS, the main purpose was to enter during sunset to ensure that the spot which I had chosen had the sunset in the horizon, and that the crowd would have started to disappear. Much to my shock and horror (but eventual relief), the sunset actually took place where Battlestar Galactica was and not at Far Far Away! This looked like a plan that was doomed for failure because it didn’t contain the all-important sunset criteria!
Then came the final nail in the coffin – the binoculars were out-of-order! There was no way she would be able to look into her “FUTURE far far away…”
Die. Back to the drawing block.
The third plan was officially far far away from success.
Next chapter: the relentless schedule that week.
Since I was going to visit USS with Huiyi on her birthday, I considered proposing there instead. It would have been an enchanting, unique and memorable proposal at the very least. After all, how many people have actually proposed at USS before? I had already planned for Gideon and Caleb to camp at the alley to capture the entire sequence.
Here are three of the many photos I took with my iPhone 4 during the first recce trip:
The idea was to propose at the Pavilion (a little hut with powerful binoculars at the outskirts of New York, overlooking Far Far Away). I would blindfold Huiyi and bring her to the Pavilion and leave her there to listen to tracks that I had lined up for her in the playlist, while I quickly make my way to Far Far Away. The end of the playlist would include a pre-recorded sound clip of my voice asking her to remove her blindfold.
Immediately, she would be visually greeted with an A2-sized poster that reads, “I will show you your FUTURE far far away…” I would have placed this poster directly below or beside the binoculars before I scooted off to Far Far Away. She would then look into the binoculars as prompted and see me at Far Far Away (*inserts Huiyi’s shocked reaction here*) where I would be holding up five placards (either concurrently or consecutively, I hadn’t decided then) that looked like this:
At this point, I will then gesture to her to return to the iPod to listen to the next track – the song that I had recorded for her. During my second recce trip to USS, I had already timed how long it would take for me to run (90 seconds) or walk (180 seconds) from Far Far Away to New York, and vice-versa. I had more than enough time to move from Point A to Point B.
Now, the idea was to link up with Shrek and Princess Fiona (whom I would have hired for an hour) to deliver to her a set of three placards after she finishes the song. These A3-sized placards would have the same words – “Yes!” – printed on it in different colours. I printed these placards for her to show me her obvious and only response to my earlier question at Far Far Away. (I honestly thought that by doing it this way, I would have stayed true to my cheeky personality.)
Then I would take a relaxing stroll back to the Pavilion from Far Far Away, since I only needed 180 seconds, and the song lasted four minutes. As soon as she sees me promenading in, Shrek and Fiona would prompt her to show me her response with one of the placards. I would then saunter towards her, and finally get down on one knee to put the engagement ring on her finger.
And when she agrees to become my fiancée, we would embrace, kiss, enjoy this special moment together and take lots of photos in the basking sunset. (Gideon and Caleb would have appeared by then…) Then we would take a short 20-metre amble to Mel’s Drive In (an American restaurant in USS), where our friends would already be waiting in ambush to commence the engagement party immediately. Finally, the evening would end at 8:55pm, and I would usher everyone outside to watch USS’ complimentary and fireworks scheduled at 9pm.
It was an extremely complicated, but comprehensive plan. Yet I was convinced of it. It was an ambitious plan of course, but nothing was beyond an idealistic sanguine.
Next chapter: the preparation before USS.